Under The Knife 7/30/21

Free Friday: Injuries > Trades

You didn’t think pitchers would sit idly by and just let the sticky checks stop them, did you? They’re being a bit slicker - no pun intended - about how they’re doing it now. Multiple sources told me that a new substance, alternately called “craft glue” and “basting spray” is being used because it wears off quickly and is wiped out by alcohol. Grab the ubiquitous bottle of Purell that’s in every dugout and the evidence is gone. It’s certainly not super-sticky and wears off, so long innings can get really long as the substance dries, but it’s better than nothing. As the body searches have toned down, the pitchers have gotten smarter about using it in hopes that no one crosses the line and creates another issue, so it’s sort of self-enforcing within a staff at this stage. I guess someone’s mom or wife is a quilter, or something. Given the increase in forearm issues after the edict, this seems a nice halfway, but an official solution would be better.

For now, on to the (free) injuries:

Danny Duffy SP LA (strained forearm)

Danny Duffy becomes yet another reminder that a player on the IL can still be traded. Duffy went down with a mild flexor strain just a week ago and even with the inability to pitch for at least a couple more, the Dodgers grabbed him. (Never say the Dodgers aren’t confident in their medical staff. They take on so much in the way of injury risk that it’s almost impossible for them to ever be at the top of the ‘standings’ for days and dollars lost.)

Duffy’s issues transfer over now but there usually isn’t that big an issue. The medical staff not only has files, but will in almost every situation have a talk with their colleagues to get a better idea about what’s worked and what hasn’t. Teams seldom share anything, but the world of baseball medicine is too small to ever really hold back on someone. (I know of two cases and things got very ugly.)

Expect nothing to change for Duffy and for him to slot in at the back of the Dodgers rotation. Given the fragility and uncertainty of this staff this year, Duffy becomes a major upgrade at the back, as soon as he’s healthy. Add in Scherzer and that team went from Walker Buehler and a hope that Kershaw came back well, to five deep (Scherzer, Kershaw, Buehler, Urias, and Duffy) and likely strengthening the pen with the shift back of Tony Gonsolin and David Price. Add in a returning Dustin May next year, likely slotting in for Scherzer, and this team gets better now and stays there.

Alex Cobb SP LAA (blister)

Alex Cobb didn’t make his Thursday start, ceding to Dylan Bundy who gets the spot start out of bullpen exile. Cobb’s blister will likely push him to the IL, simply to get someone else on the roster to fill in the pen, but this puts the Angels in a very interesting situation.

The team just drafted 20 pitchers, 19 of them from college, which should send a message to the pitchers in the organization and to everyone else. The Angels have to improve their pitching and fast and speaking of fast, Sam Bachman’s as ready as any college pitcher is. Over tax him? No, put him in the pen and manage him closely. Break his confidence? The guy has a pair of 70 pitches and 100 mph in his tool belt, so he’s not exactly developing. If what he has now doesn’t work, it’s not going to.

Cobb should be back at the minimum, but the Angels have been doing things one way for a long time and it hasn’t worked. If they have to get pitchers like Cobb again to paper over a 2022 roster, they’re in real, real trouble.

Buster Posey C SFG (no diagnosed injury)

Buster Posey doesn’t have a concussion, but that doesn’t mean that getting hit in the head and everywhere else as a catcher doesn’t take a toll. The Giants have been careful with Posey through the first half, but he had played five of six behind the plate before taking the hard foul off his mask, so he was due some rest anyway. The more worrisome thing might be that the Giants might need to work him harder to stick in the playoff race, making a breakdown more likely. Catch-22, right, Kurt?

Just because Posey doesn’t have symptoms doesn’t mean that kind of shot, mask or not, doesn’t hurt. You can get punched in the face and not be concussed; it happens all the time in boxing. It’s still a shock and the sheer number of fouls, tips, and the position do carry a toll. Posey was a late convert to catching, shifting in college, but he’s caught over 1000 games in the bigs. (Amazingly, it’s almost exactly half of the games caught by Yadier Molina.)

One of the interesting off-season discussions is going to be about Posey’s resurgence. Taking a year off isn’t realistic for most, but Posey’s always come back well from injuries and we’ve seen this sort of pattern from some other catchers, like Salvador Perez. Is taking a catcher a year after a major injury a good move? It’s an interesting starting point.

Luis Severino SP NYY (post-Tommy John)

With Chris Sale close to a return and looking good in his (too long) rehab, the next up is Luis Severino. Getting him back certainly helps the rotation, and assuming that Corey Kluber doesn’t come back (I think it’s unlikely) then Severino is a big upgrade at the back. The worry is the innings but Severino should have plenty of time to build up, which seems to be the major concern.

His groin strain was a setback, but he did show enough both before and after to show that the arm is back. There should be no reason that Severino doesn’t lock back in to the middle of the rotation, but there’s almost no depth there at this stage (pending any last minute deals.) Beyond Gerrit Cole, there’s talent but there’s simply no surety. Jameson Taillon was a gamble that paid off, Corey Kluber was one that didn’t, and Jordan Montgomery has never gone more than 155 innings and had Tommy John in the interim.

If the Yankees were in the playoffs tomorrow, they’d likely line up with Severino as the 3. We’ll know quickly if that’s good enough to pair with an all or nothing power lineup that added Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo to the all or nothingness of it. If you look at the 1-3 or 4 of the other AL East contenders, I’m not sure it doesn’t match up, but it all hinges on Severino coming back healthy and being the guy he was ahead of surgery.

Bryce Harper OF PHI (back spasms)

Bryce Harper played through a foot bruise a couple days back and while I can’t say it directly led to this episode of back spasms, a source showed me video of Harper limping a bit while walking and running over the last few days. It’s plausible

Harper’s had some issues with his back and while it only feels like Harper has been around forever, he’s 28. That’s the age where flexibility is starting to change, if it’s not maintained. We see guys like Pudge Rodriguez and Vladimir Guerrero having their first back issues about then. The key is, both got serious about maintenance and had long, productive careers.

Harper’s at that same stage and yes, Harper could well be mentioned in the same class of player as well. He’s at 1200 hits and 250 homers, so the question of whether he can stay healthy over the back half of his career is the difference between the Hall of Fame and the endless discussion of his contract a la Albert Pujols.

In the short term, it’s minor back spasms and the Phillies’ solid medical staff has been able to maintain Harper and the rest of the team well. I don’t think this will be a major issue, but there’s one coming down the line if Harper doesn’t focus.

John King RP TEX (strained shoulder)

While players can be traded that are on the IL, they do have to ‘pass’ a physical. Basically, the team acquiring the player contract has to accept the player and take on the responsibility for the injury. This is a bigger deal than it sounds, as an arm injury to a pitcher can be a career ender. If so, and if it happened in a game, now worker’s compensation laws get involved and some states have exceptionally worker-friendly laws. Things like worker’s comp costs aren’t something fans often think of, but medical staffs really, really do.

Which is not to say this is exactly what happened when John King was dropped out of the Joey Gallo trade, but it’s likely. King never even made it to the standard physical. One source told me that while he couldn’t confirm this was the issue, “[King] first reported symptoms while the team was in Oakland. California comp will stop a lot of teams.” This site gives you an idea why. XX

Quick Cuts:

Stephen Strasburg had successful surgery in Dallas on Wednesday. The standard for this is removal of the first rib, but there were no details on what actually occurred … Putting Mike Trout in the corner makes superficial sense, but his calf issue is problematic with the first step, not the twentieth. I think Joe Maddon might have been speaking without real knowledge on that one …Eloy Jimenez was only in the game a short time but the White Sox aren’t going to mess around with a tight groin. (Phrasing!) Jimenez was pulled from the game and won’t play until they’re comfortable with his game fitness level, though all signs were he was more than ready from his rehab stint … Nelson Cruz might have played 1B on Thursday, but his bruised foot is still sore … Lourdes Gurriel didn’t break his arm when it was hit by a hard pitch, but it is swollen and sore. Should be a couple days … “Pete from Accounting” is fragile. Peter Fairbanks is headed for scans on his shoulder after coming out this week. The Rays have depth, but Fairbanks is talented, if not durable … Luke Voit is hitting, most recently off Luis Severino, and should be ready for a rehab. Question is where does he play when he gets back from his knee issue … Both Mike Moustakas and Nick Senzel will be in Louisville on rehab. There’s a pretty nice squad down there, which isn’t helping the Reds just yet … Nico Hoerner goes to the IL with an oblique strain. It’s relatively mild, but these are seldom minimum stays … Good luck to Terry Francona, facing two big surgeries and done for the season … Oh, look what Marquee Network has now: